One would think that the first image ever posted on what was to become the omnipresent, omniscient, World Wide Web or the interwebs as we now call em, would be something geeky, nerdy, technical, technological. I don’t know, banks of computers, circuit boards, chips, ram, recording media – something…specially since it originated at CERN – now the temple of the famous and elusive Higgs-Boson – the ‘God’ particle.
Not four attractive young CERN lab women flashing cleavage.
The photographer, Silvano de Gennaro, was an IT developer at CERN who worked near Tim Berners-Lee and the other scientists who had invented the Web and made it public in 1991. But “I didn’t know what the Web was,” he recalled.
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“…But why did the Cernettes become part of photographic history and not, say, a particle accelerator?
“I don’t know whether I should be telling you this, but Tim Berners-Lee worked at CERN and I saw him because he was part of our pantomime in our amateur operatic society,” remembered Colette Marx-Nielsen, a Cernettes member (she’s second from the right in the photo). “He was the dame dressed as a woman.”
De Gennaro and his then-girlfriend Michele were also heavily involved in that dramatic society and befriended Berners-Lee there. In turn, he became a big fan of the Cernettes.
But Berners-Lee wasn’t the only one: the Cernettes, comprised of administrative assistants and significant others of scientists, were taking the European physics community by storm in 1992.
Their songs all adopted mid-century girl-group tropes, but with titles like “Liquid Nitrogen” (You said I’d be yours 30,240,000 seconds a year /
Including leap years, which means 86,400 extra every four”) and “My Sweetheart’s a Nobel Prize” (“I don’t understand / the funny signs on his blackboard / But when he holds my hand / he takes me to the stars”). Here’s one verse of “Collider”:
You say you love me but you never beep me
You always promise but you never date me
I try to fax but it’s busy, always
I try the network but you crash the gateways
You never spend your nights with me
You don’t go out with other girls either
You only love your collider….”